Coming off two gold certified efforts and 2008’s largely successful “Appeal to Reason,” Rise Against is back, fresh from The Blasting Room in Colorado with twelve new tracks. The end result, “Endgame” is an ambitious and varied effort that showcases the multiple facets of Rise Against’s personality.
Same as ever, Rise Against wants listeners to not just hear the songs, but actually listen to them. They have a long-standing reputation as a thinking man’s punk band, the voice of a new underground generation. On this effort, the members of Rise Against think very much like regular, everyday people. That sounds terribly obvious, so let me clarify. Just as thoughts can wander for you or me or anyone on a daily basis, “Endgame” ranges between universal societal subject matter and something more deeply personal for the musicians or more frivolous altogether. Said and done though, the bottom line message is a familiar refrain from Rise Against, which is “think.”
Musically, Rise Against has taken both criticism and praise over the years for their progression away from true gutter punk or hardcore. No matter the side of that argument you scratch your arse on, there’s no denying on “Endgame” that Rise Against still possesses their punk roots and has begun to circle back toward them.
It’s true that “Endgame” lacks the band’s original gritty feel from when they were clawing and toiling to make a living in Chicago, but what it lacks in grit it makes up in spirit. Clean production and a larger budget may make Rise Against superficially seem like a freshly-pressed pop punk act, but to actually listen to the power in a song like “Broken Mirrors” proves otherwise. While perhaps not as dirty as contemporaries like The Ashers or The Explosion, Rise Against can still gang chorus and stutter their cadence with the best of them.
The album’s best moments comes in the first half, starting with the lyrically impacting “Make It Stop (September’s Children,),” a song raging against homophobia, followed by the non-stop “Desparity By Design.” It is in these two cuts that the album shows the kind of thoughtfulness and drive that Rise Against is capable of. The three song-set is rounded out by “Satellite,” which starts off so-so, but finishes with a minute and change of classic punk songcraft.
This kind of reminiscent throwback punk attitude comes through in multiple places on “Endgame,” whether from the temperamental “A Gentleman’s Coup” or the galloping, hostile title track. Speaking of that title track, one of the best attributes of “Endgame” is Joe Principe’s bass playing, which throughout the album is on-point, capable of both taking the lead or bearing the load of the rhythm, much in the style of Rancid’s Matt Freeman.
The downside of “Endgame” is that there is plenty of material for those who want to shoot holes in the band’s underground persona. There are a handful of songs, beginning with single “Help Is On The Way” which are uncreative at best and generic at worst. All of these tracks, be it “Wait for Me” or “Survivor’s Guilt,” fall into that broad, nondescript pit that lies dormant between punk and rock. There is, to be blunt, nothing terribly special about these selections. The good moments on “Endgame” do outweigh the lesser ones, but fans of hardcore punk or old Rise Against would be well advised to note that they may be paying double the price for half an album. Conversely, for those who prefer new, more radio friendly Rise Against, the same warning applies, although the latter group will likely find the opposite material less offensive than the former group.
Rise Against has carved quite a name for themselves whether or not the listener believes they’ve abandoned their core heritage. “Endgame” isn’t nearly as “pretty” as “Appeal to Reason,” and is a solid but not wholly spectacular addition to the band’s growing catalogue.